“Mind is everything. Muscle - just pieces of rubber.  All that I am, I am because of my mind” – Paavo Nurmi

Running is so much more than physical fitness and the more I coach and talk to people, to me it becomes quite clear that you need mental toughness and strength to succeed, and by succeeding I mean keeping running.

There is a lot of research out there that suggests our minds can actually change reality, I’m not being all New Age but what I find really interesting about this is how our mindset can influence our health and well-being.  Generally, unless you have had an illness/injury, accident or given blood or a body part away, you can be the same physical person from one day to the next but your mindset can have a dramatic effect on your run and your performance.

Fascinating isn’t it, let’s just pause and think about this statement for a bit, what does it mean?  We can turn up to group on a Monday evening, being the same person from last Wednesday, not different in any way physically, we haven’t put 7 stone on in a few dasy but our mind can “talk” to us and influence how we run that evening.  Brilliant isn’t it (you can see why I studied Psychology!).

We focus so much on posture, cadence, heart rate, lactate threshold etc and whilst you know that these are so important, we don’t spend as much time training our grey matter to ensure that our mindset is just as finely tuned as our bodies.

I’ve long since known that there are many factors as to what makes a person/group successful in keeping up running and I still don’t know all the answers; below are just a few factors that I’ve found that you need (you may notice that few of them are physical)


  • Personal motivation – you want to succeed

  • Personal ability – learning and developing new skills and knowledge to succeed

  • Social pressure – group support, friends encouragement helps keep you focused on track

  • Coach - to help you develop skills, give you feedback and keep you motivated

  • Rewards and incentives

  • Resilience – successful runners are able to bounce back from injury, setbacks or disappointment

  • Positive outlook – have positive thoughts to replace the negative ones

  • Confident – be confident that you will succeed


It all sounds good on paper but how do we learn the above to help improve and strengthen our mental toughness when our lives are so busy, sometimes we can use being busy as an excuse not to run, but to be honest if I used that excuse I’d never run again.

If you’ve not been to a session for a while, in my experience, it isn’t whether you can physically do the run, it’s whether mentally you can actually get to the car park, physically, again unless you’ve had some dramatic transformation or you are injured, your body will be able to do it.  It’s having the mental toughness to put your trainers on.

I haven’t got all the answers but I thought this was a good place to start, acknowledging the importance of our mindset and to accept that you may only have a few reasons to keep running and a bucket load of reasons not to but it’s learning to give our mental training as much effort as our physical training.